When it comes to cholesterol, the key to staying healthy is achieving a proper balance of “good” and “bad” types of cholesterol.
Ochsner Health System Cardiac Rehabilitation and Preventative Cardiology department medical director Dr. Carl Lavie said low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is much worse for overall health than high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good cholesterol” as it is hypothesized that HDL can remove cholesterol from atheroma within arteries and transport it back to the liver for excretion or re-utilization.
Conversely, LDL cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol,” ranks among the leading causes of heart disease, Lavie said
Lavie’s first piece of advice to anyone attempting to lower their bad cholesterol is to lose weight through a combination of exercise and a healthy diet.
“Weight reduction raises HDL and lowers triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood,” Lavie said. “Seventy percent of adults right now are either overweight or obese. A lot of times a lack of exercise goes hand in hand with obesity.”
A healthy adult should attempt to exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes every day, Lavie said, with intensity varying from a steady walk to jogging or bike riding.
Elmwood Fitness Center registered dietician Elesha Kelleher said a healthy diet rich in soluble fiber and low in saturated fat is the most important factor in keeping cholesterol in a healthy range. Effective exercise routines are primarily effective because of a healthy diet, and both combine to lower bad cholesterol levels while elevating good cholesterol.
“You want to get at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day,” Kelleher said. “In particular, you want to consume the foods that are high in soluble fiber like fruits, beans and oats.”
Soluble fiber foods like oatmeal absorb LDL and carry it out of the body while foods with insoluble fiber simply clean out the system, Kelleher said.
“You also want to avoid things that are high in saturated fat like fatty meats, butter, whipped cream, cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream and basically anything that has cream in the name unless it’s a light or reduced version,” she said. “Trans fat, along with saturated fat, raises LDL. Foods, such as cakes, cookies and chips, contain trans fat and should be avoided.”
“Also, include small amounts of unsaturated fats in your diet, such as olive and canola oils, avocado, nuts, nut butters, which all help to lower bad cholesterol levels,” she said.
Kelleher also suggests taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement, which is beneficial for heart health.
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